My life is so strange. No really, it is bizarre but also blessed beyond measure. In 2014, my husband and I were traveling to Georgia to become godparents. Knowing there was this fantastic blog/podcaster named Maria Morera Johnson in the area, I decided to do a very bold, one might even say, crazy thing. I reached out via Facebook to Maria and asked if we could meet for lunch the day we landed. Much to my delight, she agreed, and a cherished friendship was born. Maria has become a mentor, a compadre in the vineyard, and someone who can ALWAYS make me laugh!! Her sense of humor is truly unsurpassed and her heart even more remarkable.
That Fateful Day — Meeting Maria, 2014
Maria’s new book, Our Lady of Charity: How a Cuban Devotion to Mary Helped Me Grow in Faith and Love, inspired so many poignant lessons and even a few holy giggles, I had to bless them forward. *See more lessons learned and inspiration gleamed in my September, Catholicmom.com post.
Here are some I thought you’d be inspired by too:
Everyone Loves a Parade
“Whenever I think of procession, I remember that joy. It’s what I see in the faces of so many Cubans lined along the streets of their towns when I view footage of the Marian procession celebrating our Lady of Charity. In town after town, people took to the street waving signs and flags. Shouting. Praying. Dancing. In short, they were making a joyful noise.
Unlike pilgrimages, which take the faithful out of their comfortable surroundings to seek God, processions occur in familiar spaces in the community. Because they are public displays of the faith, they are powerful tools for evangelization in addition to being the source of fruits for the participants.”
There was so much in those two little paragraphs. Memories flood of processions with the flower wreath to crown Mary, in my First Communion dress, as a young girl. The delight of unwittingly attending Mass, at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Stockbridge Mass, and realizing as you were invited outside after Mass that you had come on the Feast of Corpus Christi. The procession was so long, but we could still see the four-post canopy carried over Our Lord. This girl loves a Catholic parade!!
And pilgrimage — which I learned is not a vacation, in case you wondered — when I attended World Youth Day in 2013. I remember walking, praying, barely sleeping. There is a reason these are marketed to the YOUTH!! Maria’s insight that our entire life is a pilgrimage to heaven, so simple, yet something I had never considered. Every time God calls me out of my comfort zone to grow in holiness, I am moving closer to him. I am on pilgrimage; and wisely, I have Consecreted myself ot Jesus through Mary, so I am not on this journey alone!
Little Glimpse of My Crazy Catholic Collection
(Purell for Sign of Peace — kidding, not really kidding)
Enough is Never Too Much
“They’re [non-catholic friends] pretty used to seeing the tangled rosary I pull out of my pocket as I look for my keys, the gold medal of Our Lady of Charity that I wear every day, plus a bracelet with the Miraculous Medal given to me after my consecration to Jesus Through Mary. I’m not like the crazy cat lady of Catholic sacramentals, but I do love my medals and rosaries. And I have holy water in my desk. Oh, and probably a couple of hundred holy cards and third-order relics.
Maybe I am a cat lady of Catholic sacramentals. [emphasis added, just love that sense of humor]
Anyway, sacramentals are good, and they are good for us. They remind us of our faith, to pray, to be grateful in all things. They help us to be better Christians, and even my non-catholic friends get that…”
Big, big sacramental fan!! My purse, my desk, and my car can all attest to my Catholic swag and Catholic bling attraction. Don’t even get me started on my pursuit of saintly relics to venerate.
The Gift of a Mother
“Encounter. Isn’t that what the Blessed Mother wants for all her children? To encounter her Son?
Pope Francis’s visit also had an element of filial love that is reflected in the gift he took to the Blessed Mother in El Cobre. The pope is known to bring the Blessed Mother flowers at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major when he returns to Rome. It’s a tender offering from a son. These from a recent New Year’s Day homily are not just good advice but an exhortation:
Devotion to Mary is not spiritual etiquette; it is a requirement of the Christian Life…. The gift of the Mother, the gift of every mother and every woman, is most precious for the Church, for she too is mother and woman.
If our faith is not to be reduced merely to an idea or a doctrine, all of us need a mother’s heart, one which knows how to keep the tender love of God and to feel the heartbeat of all around us.”
What girl doesn’t love receiving flowers, of course, I believe Mary would be no different. She, I have no doubt, would be just as overjoyed with dandelions as a dozen roses.
Maria mentions jumping on the #gratefultweet bandwagon many years ago as an unlikely but highly effective way to grow in her faith. Let me add to the vast amount of #gratefultweet tweets.
Thank you, God, for giving us Our Lady of Charity, to teach us love. Thank you for the gift of Maria Morera Johnson and for her heeding your invitation to share Our Lady of Charity with the World. Extra Credit, Lord, for Maria’s ability to bring a smile! #gratefultweet
and now for the main event…
Our Lady of Charity Novena Prayer
Holy Mary, Mother of God you were chosen to be the mother of Jesus Christ, Son of God. You were also designated by your divine Son at the foot of the cross, as our spiritual mother. May we never lack the strength to show ourselves as worthy children of yours.
O beloved Virgen Mary, my Mother, I consecrate myself to you today: my eyes, my ears, my tongue, my heart, in other words, my whole being. I am yours, Oh Mother of Mercy, guard me and defend me as your son/daughter. Amen.
Ask for your petition here
REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
Just learning about Our Lady of Charity novena, no worries, you can start today here: Day One, on Maria’s Blog. Have you been following along? Don’t miss Day Eight tomorrow with the one and only: Elizabeth Scalia.
Inspired? And wisely want to purchase the book? You will be happy you did, seriously… you can get that here: Our Lady of Charity: How a Cuban Devotion to Mary Helped Me Grow in Faith and Love